On a recent trip to Auckland, ShopAbility’s Alison Sinclair dropped in on the Countdown and New World Metro format stores in central Auckland to look at the similarities and differences between the two and their suburban counterparts.
While Wellington has had a similar format for some time, both these stores opened early this year, within about a month of one another, and were the first of their kind in Auckland for both Progressive and Foodies.
The first port of call was the New World Metro store in Queen Street. The smaller in size of the two metro stores, this store sits in the basement of an office block. On first impressions this store appears to have taken learnings from metro supermarket and drug store (pharmacy) offers in the US and UK with ready-to-eat convenience offers upon entry, perfect for a CBD location and playing to quick and easy meal solutions that fit into the busy lives of the shoppers living and working in the area.
Rather than feeling like a small format supermarket this store feels like a super-sized convenience stores with all the traditional grocery categories on offer but a definite focus on the needs their shoppers may have and the occasions they are buying for (healthy meal alternative on the run for office lunch and evening meals).
New World have also identified another opportunity in the market and clearly advertise their catering offers which are obviously targeted at companies looking for cost effective catering for meetings, working lunches, etc. A smart idea given that they are already in the business of food preparation, one that gives them the opportunity to drive economies of scale and consideration of their store as a go to for ready-to-eat meal solutions.
There are no trolleys in this store, just baskets but then it is hard to imagine any of the trip types in this store requiring a trolley.
The next store we visited was the Countdown Metro on Victoria Street. This store is approximately 900sqm larger than the New World Metro. It has many similarities but this larger floor plan would explain the feeling that this is a downscaled supermarket, rather than an up-scaled convenience store.
While it shares similarities such as no dedicated car park, no trolleys and a good representation of all the traditional grocery categories on offer there are obvious differences also. The departments within this store (e.g. wine, frozens, etc.) are clearly separated and signposted and the store seems to have the same flow and adjacencies you would expect in a suburban Countdown. They have obviously had to work with the footprint of the floor space but it feels like a fairly standard supermarket format.
This store also has a ready-to-eat focus and obviously thought has gone into the motivation shoppers would have to visit this store rather than a suburban store. The benefit of added space has allowed them to execute things on a bigger scale and add a few more initiatives such as a bay which provides a selection of pre-packed deli meats, cheese slices, guacamole and individual bread rolls in one location, an obvious solution for office lunch which happens to be positioned right at the front of store.
Both stores obviously know their shopper and what sets them apart from the suburban New World or Countdown shopper. They know it is highly unlikely a mother of four will be using this store to do their weekly stock up shop and have therefore focused on top up and more convenience based occasions.
Time will tell if the format is successful enough in the Auckland market to roll out more stores but for now it seems both retailers have learnt from their experience in Wellington introducing solid metro offers to those who live and work in the Auckland CBD.